Apple has launched its much-anticipated premium subscription service. Called Apple News+, the service provides access to more than 300 magazines, digital content, and premium newspapers for a relatively low monthly subscription fee. This is a great deal for avid magazine readers, but what will it mean for publishers? Here are the details of the new service, along with the pros and cons for publishers.
Apple News+: What’s the big deal?
In March 2018, Apple acquired the digital magazine subscription service Texture. Known as the “Netflix of magazines,” Texture is a digital newsstand that gives access to hundreds of magazine titles for a monthly subscription. A year later, Apple announced an update to its Apple News subscription service, called Apple News+, which is basically a new and improved Texture.
The Apple News+ app will provide access to more than 300 popular magazines and newspapers for $9.99 per month. The family sharing plan gives access to the entire family. To subscribe to all the magazines individually would cost more than $8,000. The app has already launched on iOS 12.2 devices. Apple has no plans to make it available on Android, leaving a lot of unhappy Android Texture users without access to their favorite magazines. According to techradar.com, the service currently has 271 periodicals, from Vanity Fair to Rolling Stone to Forbes. It also has some premium newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.
Obviously, this is a great deal for avid magazine readers. Readers can access full issues or a la carte articles. However, magazine publishers have a say in which articles they allow to be accessed through the service. Readers can also download issues for reading offline. Much of the content will be PDFs of the print articles, which often don’t translate well to the small screens of the iPhone. Some publishers are reformatting their digital content to make the reading experience better on the smaller devices.
What’s in it for publishers?
From a publisher’s perspective, Apple News+ doesn’t seem like that great of a deal. Apple will pocket half of the revenue generated from subscriptions and divvy up the remaining money among publishers based on what Apple calls “dwell time” — or the amount of time readers spend reading a given publisher’s content.
Why would publishers cut their subscription revenues so drastically by putting their magazines on the platform? Because the app is built into every iPhone, iPad, and Mac and opened by 85 million people each month who otherwise might not have found their content. In other words, publishers have access to far more paying readers, who likely would not have paid for an individual subscription anyway — probably without losing those who are willing to pay.
That’s the selling point that brought most publishers on board. At a time when the magazine publishing industry continues to struggle and digital advertising struggles to keep up with declines in print ad revenue, many publishers believe this could spark a turnaround.
Other publishers are unhappy with the dwell time method for distributing subscription revenue. It doesn’t take into consideration the effort and expense of creating content. It favors long-form content over visual content and could change the types of content publishers make available on the platform.
As a magazine publisher, you’ll want to take a hard look at the model to determine whether having more eyes on your content and the potential for adding to your subscriber base is worth the price to put your magazines and digital content on the Apple News+ platform. The platform will likely improve over time, but even with its current faults it might be worth testing out.